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Accreditation of Teaching and Research Universities in Afghanistan: A Policy Implementation Analysis

The quest for quality has encouraged many countries to establish quality assurance and accreditation models to sustain and improve quality. While some established their own procedures, a great majority of the countries including those in the developing world have adopted quality assurance policies developed in the Global North to respond to internationalization and to participate in the knowledge economy. However, most universities in developing countries lack adequate infrastructure to implement accreditation standards. Thus, investigating the implementation of accreditation policies in developing nations provides new insight into the opportunities and challenges posed by internationalization of quality assurance and accreditation. This study used a multi-case study design to describe and analyze the implementation of institutional accreditation at public teaching and research universities in Afghanistan. The investigator used sensemaking and sensegiving as a theoretical lens to collect data through 35 semi-structured individual interviews and two focus group discussions, archival analyses, and site observations. The findings revealed that research universities utilize both horizontal and vertical sensemaking/sensegiving approaches to make sense of accreditation. However, teaching universities primarily relied on top-down sensemaking/sensegiving approaches leading to only partial stakeholder engagement in accreditation process. The study also highlighted the role of peer reviewers as boundary spanners – shaping the meaning of accreditation between and within institutions. While some university leaders were successful influencing the sensemaking of stakeholders utilizing both structured and informal mechanisms, the research found that sensemaking and sensegiving of accreditation did not reach the entire community. The evidence shows that primary stakeholders such as faculty members continue to perceive accreditation as a foreign process, which affects their participation in the implementation process. Additionally, the findings unearthed the limitations of a one-size-fits-all accreditation strategy and concludes that the internationalization of quality assurance and accreditation produces the optimum results when adapting policies and practices fit the local context. Another outcome shows that a lack of autonomy, scarce resources, lack of funding, and limited awareness are major challenges in implementing accreditation in under-resourced contexts. Based on research findings, the study offers several recommendations for policy, practice, and future research at the national and institutional levels.
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